Tag Archives: Cajun

Skillet Cornbread

This Cajun-style cornbread is easily made without wheat flour and so is perfect for those avoiding gluten. I like to use a mixture of yellow cornmeal and masa harina. Some might insist that it be made with solid shortening but I get great results with half lard and half oil. Just oil will work as well. Of course if you happen to have some bacon drippings they would go very well.  This cornbread is perfect for cornbread and Andouille stuffing. I adapted the recipe from Emeril Lagasse’s Louisiana Real and Rustic (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1996).

Ingredients

 

Yellow cornmeal

150 grams

About 1 cup

Masa harina

150 grams

About 1 cup

Salt

5 grams

¾ teaspoon

Sugar

15 grams

1 Tablespoon

Baking powder

4 grams

1 teaspoon

Chili powder

1 milliliter

¼ teaspoon

Milk (I use nonfat)

About 380 grams

About 1½ cups

Egg

1 large

1 large

Finely chopped onion

50 grams

⅓ cup

Frozen corn kernels

50 grams

½ cup

Oil and/or lard

30 grams

2 Tablespoons

Method

Preheat the oven to 400°. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl lightly beat the egg and milk together. Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl with the dry and mix well. Add a bit of water or milk if the batter is too thick. Fold in the onion and corn.

Heat the oil in an 8-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the fat is just beginning to smoke pour in the batter. Cook on top of the stove for 3 or 4 minutes until the edges are beginning to brown. Place in the hot oven and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Chou Étouffée

Except as coleslaw and an accompaniment to often dreadful corned beef at Saint Patrick’s Day, cabbage gets rather short shrift in our cuisine. That is really a shame because this humble head is both nutritious and tasty. And it is a wonderful canvas on which to build a meal. This simple dish of smothered cabbage from New Orleans is easy and filling—perfect for a chilly evening. Serve it with rice and perhaps a crusty French bread.

I adapted this recipe from one posted at NOLA.com, the Web site of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Ingredients

Bacon – one or two rashers, about 50 grams (2 ounces), coarsely chopped

or substitute 30 ml (2 Tablespoons) bacon fat or oil

Cabbage – one half head or more to taste, coarsely shredded

Onion – one large, diced

Celery – ½ stalk, diced

Garlic – 2 cloves or to taste, minced

Pickled port meat – 100 grams (4 ounces), optional

Andouille sausage – 100 grams (1 or 2 links) sliced into 6 mm (¼ inch) rounds

Bay leaf – 1 or 2

Salt and pepper

Method

Render the bacon in a Dutch over or other large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. When crispy, pour off any excess fat.

Still over medium-high heat, brown the pickled pork and Andouille sausage lightly in the bacon fat or oil, if using.

Turn the heat to medium, add the onion, celery, and garlic to the pot and sweat until softened. Fold in the cabbage and bay leaves stirring for about 5 minutes to blend the flavors.

Pour in water to just barely cover the cabbage. Bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer gently until the cabbage is tender, about an hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pickled Pork

In the days before refrigeration small animals like chickens, rabbits, and small game usually were killed and eaten the same day. The meat of larger animals like pigs, however, had to be preserved by curing, drying, smoking, or a combination of those techniques. Many traditional dishes use preserved meats, but they can be difficult to find and often contain unnecessary chemicals. Fortunately it is easy to cure meat safely at home because it can be refrigerated as it cures and when finished. This recipe, adapted from Bruce Aidells’ Complete Sausage Book (Berkley: Ten Speed Press, 2000) 48, makes a product similar to the petit sales used in Louisiana cooking. I use it in place of salt pork in baked beans. It can also be turned into New Orleans’ famous spicy tasso, but that is a different recipe.

A note about curing salts: sodium nitrite has been used for centuries to prevent botulism in meat. In the 1970s concerns were raised that, when cooked, meats cured with sodium nitrites became contaminated with nitrosamines that were suspected of being carcinogenic in large doses. Subsequent studies by the National Science Foundation showed these concerns to be largely unfounded when the salts are used properly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that cures contain 6.1 grams of sodium nitrite per 100 pounds of meat. Because such a small amount is difficult to measure accurately sodium nitrite is sold as 6.25% concentration mixed in ordinary salt. Variously called Prague Salt #1, Instacure #1, or pink salt #1 (because of the dye used to prevent from accidently being confused with plain salt) it is available from any sausage making supply vendor. I bought mine online from The Sausage Maker, Inc. in Buffalo.

Ingredients

 

Pork shoulder (butt)

5 to 6 pounds

2 to 3 kilograms

Water

2 quarts

2 liters

Kosher salt

10 ounces (1 cup)

300 grams

Sugar

3½ ounces (½ cup)

100 grams

Instacure #1

1½ ounces (7½ teaspoons)

40 grams

Red pepper flakes (optional)

1 teaspoon

5 milliliters

Bay leaves

6

6

Cloves, whole

6

6

Allspice, whole

6

6

 

Method

Cut the pork into 2” chunks of approximately equal size. In a 1-gallon or larger stainless steel, plastic, crockery, or glass container, dissolve the salt, sugar, and curing salt in the water, stirring continuously until completely dissolved. Put the meat into the brine and add red pepper flakes, if using, and the spices. Place a heavy plate or other suitable weight to ensure that the meat stays completely submerged in the brine. Refrigerate for 2 days. To see if the pork is completely cured, cut a chunk in half. The pork should be uniformly pink throughout. If it is not, leave the meat in the brine in the refrigerator for another day. Repeat the test.

Wash the cured meat under cold running water, drain, and store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to I week. For longer storage, dry the meat carefully and freeze in large freezer bags, removing as much air as possible.

Pork Chops and Sweet Potato Gravy

This hearty recipe that I adapted from Emeril Lagasse Louisiana Real and Rustic(New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1996) is perfect for a chilly autumn evening. It is sweet without being cloying and just nicely spicy. Serve it alone or with a simple side dish of greens.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • Boneless pork loin chops———————— 2, around 6 ounces each
  • Dried thyme—————————————- ¼ teaspoon
  • Dried oregano————————————– ¼ teaspoon
  • Garlic powder————————————— 1 teaspoon.
  • Black pepper, preferably coarse grind——- 1 teaspoon
  • Kosher salt——————————————- 1 teaspoon
  • Cayenne pepper———————————– ½ teaspoon or to taste
  • Paprika, sweet or hot—————————- 1½ teaspoon
  • Dry mustard powder—————————— ½ teaspoon
  • Oil, lard, or a combination———————– 1 tablespoon
  • Sweet potato————————————— 1 medium, about 12 ounces
  • Flour—————————————————- 1 tablespoon (I use white rice flour)
  • Onion, thinly sliced——————————— 4 ounces, about 1 medium
  • Chicken or pork stock, or water—————- 1 cup
  • Pecan halves, coarsely chopped—————- 2 ounces
  • Steen’s Cane Syrup or molasses————— 1½ tablespoons
  • Scallions, chopped——————————— ¼ cup

Method

Mix the thyme, oregano, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, cayenne, paprika, and mustard in a small bowl. Pat the pork chops dry and coat generously with the rub. Set aside while you prepare the sweet potato.

Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Prick the sweet potato a few times with a small knife and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Bake in the hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes. You will be able to smell when it is done. Set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel, and mash.

Put a cast iron skillet (it really is the best pan to use for this recipe) over medium-high heat, add the oil and/or lard and let it get nearly smoking hot. Cook the pork chops in the hot skillet for 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium. Adjust the fat, if necessary, to about 1 tablespoon, sprinkle in the flour, and stir to combine. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until well browned but not burnt. Add the onions and sauté until soft, about 5 or 6 minutes. A bit at a time, pour in the stock allowing it to come to a boil before the next addition. Add the sweet potatoes and mix well to make a smooth gravy. Stir in the pecans, scallions, and syrup or molasses. Check the seasoning then return the pork chops to the pan and bury them in the gravy. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Cajun Brown Rice Jambalaya

Earlier this month I posted a recipe for Creole Jambalaya with this introduction to the subject:

Classic Louisiana jambalaya comes in two basic varieties, Creole and Cajun, the former being the original dish adapted from the paella of their native land by Spanish Creoles; the latter is probably a rustic variation on the more urban Creole jambalaya. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word jambalaya comes from a Provençal French word, jambalaia, meaning a mish-mash. Traditionally the Creole version contains tomatoes while the Cajun does not. And while Cajun jambalaya usually includes Andouille sausage, the Creole jambalaya recipe in The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book (New York: Random House, 1989) calls for chaurice which is similar to fresh chorizo or Portuguese chourico.

This recipe is an adaptation of a brown Cajun jambalaya with a few twists. First, when I started prepping the ingredients I discovered that I had absentmindedly made mire poix instead of the Cajun trinity; that is, I had used carrots instead of bell pepper. Well, there is no way to unchop a carrot so I left it in and added the pepper. Second, I decided to make it with brown rice instead of white. (I used medium grain because that is what I had on hand but I recommend long grain.) Ideally one would use Andouille sausage in this dish but it is very difficult to find in most places (but it is easy to make) so I used chourico instead. Any smoked sausage would work but I avoid commercial kielbasa because it is so fatty. The real secret to Cajun jambalaya is to brown the meats and vegetables thoroughly because that is what gives it its rich dark color. Allow about 45 minutes to get everything ready for the stock. Finally, the best implement by far for cooking this jambalaya is a cast iron Dutch oven. If you do not have one, you can use any heavy pot but be careful that you do not scorch it.

Ingredients

  • Brown rice——————————————— 8 ounces
  • Chicken fat or oil————————————– ½ teaspoon
  • Andouille sausage, sliced————————— ½ pound
  • Boneless chicken, cubed—————————- 12 ounces
  • Carrot, chopped————————————— 2 ounces
  • Celery, chopped————————————— 2 ounces
  • Bell pepper, chopped——————————– 2 ounces
  • Onion, chopped————————————— 8 ounces
  • Garlic, minced—————————————– ½ ounce, about 4 or 5 cloves
  • Cayenne or other hot pepper, minced———— to taste
  • Chicken stock—————————————— 2½ cups
  • Salt and pepper————————————— to taste

Method

Rinse the rice and leave to soak in cold water.

Melt the fat in a cast iron Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage slices thoroughly on each side without burning. Remove to a bowl.

Put the chicken cubes into the pot allowing them to stick to the bottom before turning. Brown them well on all sides. Remove to the bowl with the sausage.

Add the carrot, celery, bell pepper, and onion to the Dutch oven. Sauté, stirring often, until the onions are begin to brown. Add the garlic and hot pepper. Continue to cook; now stirring almost constantly, until the vegetables are caramelized but not burned, about 20 to 30 minutes all told. Pour in the chicken stock and, with a wooden spoon, scrape all the burned bits from the bottom fo the pot. The stock should turn a rich dark brown.

Return chicken and sausage to the pot. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Drain the rice and add to the pot along with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice is done, 30 to 40 minutes. If jambalaya is a little soupy, let it stand uncovered for a few minutes to thicken. Stir to fluff up before serving with a bottle of Lousiana hot sauce on the side.

Shrimp and Andouille Casserole

This recipe is an elaboration on Eggplant and Shrimp Bake from Emeril Lagasse’s Louisiana Real & Rustic (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1996) 90. While the original is a side dish my version is a meal in itself. It is intentionally lacking in starch so as to be low in carbohydrates. If you wish you could add rice and more stock but then you would have something more like jambalaya.

Serves 2 generously

Ingredients

  • Olive oil, about ¼ cup
  • 1 link Andouille sausage, about 3 or 4 ounces, cut into ¼-inch rounds
  • 8 medium shrimp, about 6 ounces, peeled, deveined, and halved into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 ounces eggplant peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (I used small graffiti eggplants unpeeled)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces chopped onion
  • 3 ounces chopped celery
  • 3 ounces chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 small cayenne or other hot chili, minced
  • 4 ounces chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup chicken stock, water, or a combination of the two
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup fine bread crumbs (I used corn flakes ground in the food processor)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan

Method

Preheat oven to 375° (350° for convection).

Pour ⅛ inch of oil into a 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown well. Remove to a bowl leaving as much oil behind as possible. Put the shrimp into the pan and cook quickly until pink. Remove and set aside.

If needed, add a bit of oil to the pan then sauté the eggplant for about 3 minutes or until just beginning to soften. Season with a good grind of black pepper then add the onions, celery, bell pepper, and chili. Cook, stirring often, for another 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and dried herbs to the pan. Toss to combine and sauté until the tomatoes are just soft, about 2 minutes. Pour over the stock and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the bread crumbs and parmesan. Turn into a suitable casserole dish and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

Mixed Metaphor Jambalaya

Mixed Metaphor JambalayaIf you are like me your refrigerator tends to accumulate odds and ends of ingredients. Today I found half a can of diced tomatoes, about a cup of water I had steamed some shrimp over, a cup of thin coconut milk with a bit of green curry paste mixed in, a couple Thai eggplants, and four ounces of chicken breast. Foraging in the freezer turned up shrimp, bay scallops, and a hot pepper. And, of course, there were the usual pantry staples like onions, celery, garlic, rice, and pancetta or bacon. It all said to me: jambalaya!

Now jambalaya, whatever etymology of the word you chose to believe, is basically Creole paella. And like paella it is best built with a variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables. I say “built” advisedly because any recipe you see that has you removing things from a pan when you are making paella or jambalaya is simply wrong. Our foremothers’ kitchens were equipped with a large wooden table for food preparation and eating while cooking was done at the hearth. Do you think they really schlepped hot food back and forth to the table? Not likely. The trick is to add ingredients according to how long they need to cook. It takes a bit of practice but the result is worth the effort. By the way, do not be concerned if the rice sticks to the bottom of the pot a bit. That is the sign of a good jambalaya or paella.

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 medium hot pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 4 ounces chicken breast, cubed
  • 4 ounces medium (26 to 30 per pound), shelled and deveined
  • 4 ounces bay scallops
  • 1 cup long grain rice
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1½ cups water, stock, or other flavorful liquid (see above)
  • 2 Thai eggplant, quartered
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put a large enameled Dutch oven over medium high heat and render the pancetta or bacon until it begins to color and there is enough fat to sauté the onions. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion, celery, and pepper. Sauté until the onions are medium brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two.

Raise the heat a bit and add the chicken. Cook for a few minutes until it is no longer pink. Add the shrimp and toss until slightly pink then add the scallops and cook for another minute. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and liquid. Mix well scraping any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the Thai eggplants and a good grind of black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and set over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Uncover the pot and fluff the jambalaya, scraping the bits stuck to the pot. Recover and let sit off heat for five minutes.

Skillet Cornbread

This Cajun-style cornbread is easily made without wheat flour and so is perfect for those avoiding gluten. I like to use a mixture of yellow and white cornmeal along with corn flour or masa harina but any combination would work. The recipe I adapted this from in Emeril Lagasse’s Louisiana Real and Rustic (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1996) insists that one use lard or solid shortening. I use oil instead with good result. If you have some bacon drippings on hand replace some of the oil with them for a nice depth of flavor. Of course this cornbread is perfect for cornbread and Andouille dressing.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup white cornmeal
  • 1 cup corn flour or masa harina
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. chili powder
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • ½ cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 3 Tbsp. oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 400°. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl lightly beat the egg and milk together. Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl with the dry and mix well. Add a bit of water or milk if the batter is too thick. Fold in the onion and corn.

Heat the oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the fat is just beginning to smoke pour in the batter. Cook on top of the stove for 3 or 4 minutes until the edges are beginning to brown. Place in the hot oven and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Pork Chops with Sweet Potato Gravy

Cajuns, like their French Canadian cousins, have a definite sweet tooth. How else to explain the popularity of maple sugar pie among the latter and the probable invention of pecan pie by the former? This recipe, that I adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s Louisiana Real and Rustic (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1996), satisfies that sweet tooth as well as the Cajun love of cayenne and pork. Sweet but not cloying and spicy but not hot it is a tasty dish indeed. I served it simply with French-cut green beans.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet potato, about 12 ounces
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper, preferable coarse grind
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1½ tsp. paprika
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard powder
  • 2 boneless pork loin chops, about 1 inch thick and 6 ounces each
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. flour, I use white rice flour
  • 1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup pecan halves
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne or to taste
  • 1½ Tbsp. Steen’s 100% Pure Cane Syrup or 1 Tbsp. Karo syrup
  • 2 green onions, white and crisp green parts, chopped

Method

Preheat oven to 400°. Prick the sweet potato a few time with a small knife and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Bake in the hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes. You will be able to smell when it is done. Set aside to cool.

Break the pecans into pieces with a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin on a cutting board.

Mix the thyme, oregano, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, cayenne, and paprika in a small bowl. Pat the pork chops dry and coat generously with the rub. Heat a cast iron skillet (it really is the best pan to use for this recipe) over medium-high heat. Add the oil, let heat for a few second, then the pork chops. Brown for 5 minutes per side then remove to a plate and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and sprinkle in the flour. Stir to combine with the fat in the pan, adding a bit more oil if needed. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes until well browned. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft, about 5 or 6 minutes. Mix in the water, pecan pieces, and cayenne. Bring to a boil then add the sweet potatoes mashing until smooth. Stir in the syrup and green onions. Return the pork chops to the pan and bury in the gravy. Simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.

Brabant Potatoes

These tasty fried potatoes are sometimes called the Louisiana version of French fries and are often nothing more than deep-fried cubes of potato. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated. Brabant potatoes are named after the Duchy of Brabant, the area surrounding Brussels in what is now Belgium, which is also the original home of what we now call French fries. Most likely they found their way to Louisiana with the Acadians most of whom were from Normandy, not far from Belgium. Fannie Farmer included a recipe for Brabant potatoes in her 1918 cookbook. Authentic Brabant potatoes are more than simply cubical French fries. Traditionally the potato cubes are blanched before frying which gives them a nice crispy texture. Some recipes call for baking potatoes, some for boiling potatoes. I do not think it matters much and use whichever I have on hand. Some cooks deep fry them; some panfry them. I prefer the latter because it uses less oil. However you make them, the secret to good Brabant potatoes is plenty of garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and butter.

For 2 generous servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, or more to taste, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • Salt to taste

Method

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Scrub or peel the potatoes and cut into large dice, about ½ inches on a side. Boil the potatoes for 5 minutes then drain and set aside to cool a bit. You can do this step ahead.

Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes and a good grind of pepper. Sauté, tossing often, for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown and nicely crisp. Add the onion, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce and sauté for a minute or 2. Add the butter and toss to coat the potatoes. Season with salt to taste.